Tag Archives: indie books

Other People’s Books–#1: Only Shot at a Good Tombstone

I’m going to take a break from my regularly (or irregularly) scheduled discussions of my books and make some recommendations in the next few posts about some “indie” books that I’ve read, and loved, in the past year or so.  I’ve mentioned a few here before, but they’re worth mentioning again. (And there’s still time to get them as holiday gifts; I assume that they’re all eligible for the Amazon “MatchBook” promotion, which allows you to buy the Kindle version of a book for a significantly reduced price–usually 99 cents, and in some cases free–if you buy the print version.  One for you; one for a reader you love.)

The first book I’ll mention is Only Shot at a Good Tombstone, by Robert Mitchell.  I LOVE this book.  Robert is one of the best writers I know; he loves Kerouac and Salinger and Joyce and Steinbeck, and it shows.  Tombstone is definitely (and refreshingly, these days) not a light, frothy beach read; it requires a reader’s attention, and rewards it. Yet it’s unfailingly entertaining and thought-provoking and just downright wonderful (did I mention I love it?).  I was thinking just last night that it’s a book about a hero’s journey, albeit a decidedly unconventional one.

Here’s the review I wrote of the book a while back:

“As I read Only Shot at a Good Tombstone, I kept thinking about how I could possibly describe it to anyone else. On one of my Goodreads updates early on, I said something about how reading it was a little like getting on a ride at an amusement park, and having no idea what the ride would be like, and then finding yourself “hanging on for dear life” as the ride takes you to all kinds of unexpected places. I stand by that description.

If you’re the kind of reader who needs a conventional story-line, unfailingly upstanding and “respectable” characters, and tidy answers in order to enjoy a book, OSAAGT probably isn’t for you. There is no real discernible “plot” to the book; it simply follows a protagonist known only as the “young man” through a couple of days as he wanders around the smog-choked, chaotic city of L.A, allowing himself to be drawn into one tableau after another. But if you can just allow yourself to be led where the young man takes you, and keep in mind that “real life” doesn’t have any particular plot either (except, perhaps, in retrospect…perhaps), and tends to be more of a long series of encounters that are defined in large part by what you make of them, you should be able to really enjoy the ride.

It’s those “encounters”–each one elegantly detailed and engaging–that make up the book. What binds them all together and keeps the book from being nothing more than a random, piecemeal–albeit remarkably literate and well-written–gathering of scenes, leading nowhere, is the world-view and unfailing humanity of the “young man.” Although a self-described “freak”, his (and the author’s) compassion for every lost soul he comes across during his wanderings (one of the things that he considers “freaky” about himself is his ability to see the beauty in just about everyone), and his easy willingness to care in an unassuming way for others, allows US to see the characters in his world–and, perhaps, our own–as real, significant, and deserving of our attention. Each one of those characters, and his or her circumstances, is fully drawn and remarkable, and each tableau draws the reader in and turns pre-conceived ideas about “types” inside out, so that, perhaps, when she closes the book and goes out into her own world, she will be forced (in a truly positive way) to look beyond those types out there as well. And that can only be a good thing. (I found the character of Harold, a Jesus-like kind of “street prophet”, particularly affecting.)

But there is nothing “boring” about the book, and the author is not trying to hit the reader over the head to make a “point” (although the book is anything but pointless). Every story and encounter is fascinating and often haunting. Only Shot at a Good Tombstone is by turns funny, heartbreaking, illuminating, profane, “obscene” (but not gratuitously so), cynical, shocking, and just plain sweet. As in life, there are no easy answers, and no tidy conclusions, and each situation and character we meet will be affected by what we ourselves bring to it.

Yeah–I kinda loved this book. It’s one of those good, “old-fashioned” books in which the writer can actually write, and thinks deeply about what he’s writing, and is willing to take all kinds of unconventional chances (and has the talent to do so). I believe that it’s what we used to call ‘literature.'”

OK.  Go buy the freakin’ book! 🙂

http://www.amazon.com/Only-Shot-At-Good-Tombstone-ebook/dp/B0032JTVGU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387381374&sr=1-1&keywords=only+shot+at+a+good+tombstone

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The Eighties… “Bitchen”!

A couple of posts ago I mentioned a memoir by Tom Harvey, who had read Holding Breath.  We ended up exchanging print copies of our books, and I got to read Tom’s book–The Eighties: A Bitchen Time To Be a Teenager!  Now, I was only a teenager for one year of the ’80’s (and spent most of the decade kind of “underground” at college and later in NYC when I was busy meeting and loving David), but I had a wonderful time reading The Eighties.  It will resonate even more for those who actually did come of age in the ’80’s.  This was my review of the book on Amazon.com and Goodreads:

The advent of and boom in “indie” publishing has made me realize something–that EVERYONE has a story to tell and, when the stories are written well, readers can learn something AND be entertained while reading those of even the most seemingly “ordinary” people. The fact is that there really are no “ordinary” people, or ordinary lives.

Unfortunately, not everyone who has a story to tell has the talent to tell it in writing (I’m not putting anyone down; it’s simply that different people have different talents). Tom Harvey DOES have the talent, and his memoir is entertaining and thought-provoking and funny and occasionally sad. He also has an absolutely amazing memory for details from what is now a fairly long time ago.

What impressed me the most about the book, however, is that it portrays the author’s life as a teen in the ’80’s with such joy and enthusiasm (there are a lot of really tragic memoirs out there, too–a happy one that’s fun to read is a rare thing!). If everyone had such a lust for life as Tom had then (and, I would guess, now), and were able to express it as wonderfully and infectiously as Tom does in his book, the world would no doubt be a more joyful place. I read The Eighties during kind of a rough week, and it did me the huge favor of cheering me up enormously. (And yet, small, melancholy details like the down-and-out man the author observed in a restaurant, dribbling his food, provide balance and moments of good reflection. The author seemed to swallow that part of his life–the good and not-so-good parts of it–whole, and he sends it back to his readers as a gift.)

I can’t agree with ALL of Tom’s tastes in music :), but I loved his book!

Here’s the link to the book’s Amazon page again:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Eighties-Bitchen-Teenager-ebook/dp/B0084KT0WM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1359853282&sr=1-1&keywords=tom+harvey

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